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Republicans: State Budget Agreement Reached

Republicans: State Budget Agreement Reached”

More than two months after it was supposed to have been signed by the governor, Wisconsin's proposed biennial state budget passed a crucial hurdle Wednesday night as the Joint Finance Committee completed its work on the plan.

Democrats say Republicans have failed by not finding a long-term funding solution for roads.

In some of its final votes Wednesday, the budget committee voted to reject Walker's call to increase the earned income tax credit, which benefits the working poor, by $20 million.

The proposal approved Wednesday by the Joint Finance Committee targets machinery, tools and patterns not considered manufacturing property under state law.

The plan would impose a new fee on electric and hybrid vehicle owners, but there is no gas tax increase or other revenue hike that would help shore up funding for roads into the future.

"The missed opportunities in this budget are really frustrating", said Democratic Sen.

The committee's Republican co-chairs both say they wish they could have done more, but this is a good start.

The GOP transportation plan would fund projects that were included in Gov. Scott Walker's budget earlier this year, including the continued widening of Interstate 39/90 south of Madison to the IL border. It comes at the same time they are calling for forbidding funding of two projects in the Milwaukee area near the Zoo interchange. The area targeted for expansion is a federally designated truck route.

And the committee voted to prohibit local governments from banning short-term rentals if the guests' stays were longer than six days and shorter than 29 days, while requiring homeowners who rent out their homes for more than 10 days per year to register with the state. It was included in a broad road-funding proposal that also includes imposing a new fee on electric and hybrid vehicles and borrows about $410 million for road projects. Jon Erpenbach of Middleton.

The measure would prohibit counties, cities, villages or towns from passing any ordinance that logically conflicts with, defeats the objective of or violates the spirit of a state law. The last issues for the committee to take up were taxes and a typically wide-ranging wrap-up motion.

Limit the ability of local governments to restrict the operation of a quarry, like a sand or gravel pit. Terry McGowan, president and business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139, noted that the state's nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has conducted a survey of studies looking into how prevailing wages affect construction costs. A spokesman for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the powerful state chamber of commerce, says it opposes the changes.

The proposal would borrow about $410 million for roads, impose a new fee on electric and hybrid auto owners, spend $2.5 million on a toll roads study and repeal the prevailing wage for state building and highway projects.

Republicans said they would vote on the rest of the budget Wednesday, including provisions on taxes and a plan by Walker that would add new auditors at the state Department of Revenue.

Rep. John Nygren says he's disappointed the budget won't include a long-term funding solution for transportation.

Still, even with prevailing wages gone on state work, most big road projects will still fall under a federal form of prevailing wages.

Property taxes paid by Wisconsin businesses would be cut by almost $75 million under a Republican proposal that has been added to the state budget. That's on top of the $75 fee all vehicles pay now.

The new plan included a decision to borrow $400 million for transportation, which is roughly $100 million less than what Walker proposed in his budget earlier this year.

The business leaders joined with Democrats on Tuesday to put pressure on Republicans to act with the budget now two months late.

But even with their largest legislative majorities in decades, Republicans found it hard to reach agreement on several key areas - most significantly how to plug a $1 billion roads shortfall.

The new fees would generate about $8.4 million over the next two years.

"Kids are locked into a situation that's just not working for them", said Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette.

"This budget includes more transportation funding for all levels of government to provide better roads and bridges, the most funding in our history for state highway rehabilitation, and historically low levels of borrowing", Walker said in a statement.



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